The Other Side of the Door
A family lives an idyllic existence abroad until a tragic accident takes the life of their young son. The inconsolable mother learns of an ancient ritual that will bring him back to say a final goodbye. She travels to an ancient temple, where a door serves as a mysterious portal between two worlds. But when she disobeys a sacred warning to never open that door, she upsets the balance between life and death.
March 4th, 2016
Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Sarah Wayne Callies
From producer Alexandre Aja (director of High Tension and the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes) comes this story of an antique-dealing couple Maria and Michael (Sarah Wayne Callies and Jeremy Sisto) who, on a work-trip to Mumbai, India – fall in love with the city’s exotic charms – and decide to settle there to start a family. Flash-forward to six years later, and one of the two children (Lucy and Oliver – played by Sofia Rosinsky and Logan Creran, respectively) who have since been born, is now dead. It’s a recent tragedy for the family, and Maria cannot live with her grief and guilt. So the family’s religious Indian housekeeper/nanny, Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik) suggests that Maria take Oliver’s ashes to a remote and abandoned temple in an expansive forest – and if she follows the explicit rules, she will have the chance to say a final goodbye to her deceased son. And Piki warns Maria that breaking any of the rules (especially opening the temple door when she’s not supposed to) will bring dire repercussions. I think we can all imagine what Maria ends up doing – hence the title – The Other Side of the Door. Maria returns home, but trailing her is the ghost of her son – and havoc ensues.
While there are several other films which clearly inspired The Other Side of the Door (The Others, Poltergeist, The Grudge), none are more liberally “borrowed from” than 1989’s Pet Sematary. Honestly, going in, I would never have expected to see that film as such a heavy influence – but the many lifted ideas and characters from the Mary Lambert film/Stephen King novel were quite striking.
So based on that, the film isn’t all that original, but it has many solid points which make it sort of worth your while.
Performances are mostly good. Jeremy Sisto as the grieving father doesn’t really have much to do. Michael’s a hard-worker who isn’t home that much, so frankly, we don’t see much of his life. Most of the story centers on Maria and her experiences. And Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes in the juggernaut The Walking Dead) is a gifted actress. She’s got good on-screen presence and she cries like she means it. Of note both in her performance and in the film as a whole – the flashback sequence of Oliver’s death is extremely disturbing. It was one of those scenes where I appreciated the intensity, but at the same time, couldn’t wait for it to end. Callies has several powerful moments throughout, but none as devastating and impressive as this. Honestly, had the rest of the film had the heft and emotion of this scene, this review may have been quite different.
As Piki, the tireless housekeeper (she’s the Jud Crandall character from Pet Sematary) Suchitra Pillai-Malik steals the show. She’s got the proper amount of age and the necessary wisdom in her eyes for such a “half-man” character. Her warnings and instructions are always quite frightening, and most of that is credit to Pillai-Malik’s awesome, deep-voiced delivery.
Technically, the film’s just gorgeous. At the filmmakers’ disposal were picturesque and stunning locations, hundreds of locals to add loads of authenticity and a crew that knows their stuff. The camerawork was mouth-watering, the visual effects and make-up top notch and the score appropriately ethnic and moody.
But The Other Side of the Door doesn’t have a decent script or an inspired story. The set-up of a child lost in tragedy, a grieving parent desperate for one more hug and a colorful local with good intentions to bring parent and child back together… well, it sounds darn familiar doesn’t it? And even without the plethora of Pet Sematary homages, the film meanders. It became boring somewhere in the middle, when the repetition set in. Maria experiences creepy supernatural events – over and over. And yet the character never seems to do much about it. Sure, she wants her son back, so she’ll let his ghostly mischievious behavior continue to slide. But when things become dangerous and violent, she doesn’t even let her husband in on the secret of what she’s done, for either help or sympathy. And with so many similar moments, and since the film felt “long”, perhaps some appropriate cuts of “non-load-bearing” scenes would be in order.
Which brings me to the gaps in logic running rampant throughout the film. Despite the beauty of Maria’s journey to the temple – she’s unescorted. I know you’re grieving, but there are real life concerns at hand. Wild animals. A possible criminal element. A fish out of water scenario. Not to mention the fact that this heavily-wooded area surrounding the temple could offer any number of dangerous trips or falls – leaving you alone in the middle of nowhere with no one to help you. And if this massive request to suspend disbelief is one of the major events to set the story in motion – that’s a problem. There’s also the evening where Piki and Maria exhume and burn Oliver’s body to prepare for Maria’s trip to the temple — wouldn’t husband Michael have realized something was up (her absence in the middle of the night)? His continued ignorance throughout the film just doesn’t ring true.
The very brief epilogue in the film was expertly handled and a bit of a shocker – but sadly, my comment of “nicely done” when the story’s final cards hit the table – wasn’t enough to make me more gung-ho for the rest of what I’d just seen.
I also wanted to briefly mention that Callies plays a distracted mother (she’s grieving, so her living child suffers a lot of neglect). But it made me chuckle as I thought back to Lori Grimes’ legendary repeat of “Has anyone seen Carl?” during her three seasons on The Walking Dead. If you need someone to portray a very often clueless and inattentive mother, apparently Sarah Wayne Callies has a corner on that particular acting market.
I will tell you that this film will probably be well received by the general public. It’s got great special effects, a solid performance from Sarah Wayne Callies and enough “boo” moments to please most hardcore horror fans. A few of these jump scares are crazy effective! One of them was a true deception and brilliant misdirection from the filmmakers. Once you see it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s easily the most memorable bit from the film (and I just now noticed… of course, it’s shown in the trailer — sigh).
The film opens in theatres on March 4th. I won’t go as far as to say you should keep this door completely closed, but telling you to keep it wide open with welcoming arms is not the proper recommendation either. Unfortunately, The Other Side of the Door is a very average horror film-going experience.